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Eye on Elections

PHOTO: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
PHOTO: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
June 24, 2013

RICHMOND, Ky. - The state's top election officer said she has received "overwhelmingly strong support" from Kentuckians to allow online voter registration and to make early voting easier. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has just finished election forums across the state, stopped short of endorsing changes in those voting laws.

At least, not yet . . .

"Not only do we have to be responsive to the citizens of Kentucky, but I have to look out for my fellow election administrators," she cautioned. "Our county clerks, we don't want to place any unfunded mandate on them or undue burden in that process."

To register to vote in Kentucky you currently have to either go to your county clerk's office or do it by mail. According to Lundergan Grimes, 18 states allow online registration and it's pending in 15 other states.

Berea College professor Meta Mendel-Reyes, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said she sees how important voting is to her students, adding that it's "bothersome" to the students and her that registering to vote in Kentucky can be difficult.

"All these barriers, I think, that make it hard for people to exercise the basic right to vote are something Kentuckians can, it's time, to move on," she stated. "It's the 21st century: let's take advantage of the electronics to strengthen our democracy."

Another big issue is voting by absentee ballot. To vote early in Kentucky you have to have a valid reason, but Cecile Schubert, co-president of the Kentucky League of Women Voters state board, said the right to vote early should be a "forgone conclusion."

"That is our inalienable right, is to vote and we should be given that right no matter when it is," Schubert declared.

Secretary of State Lundergan Grimes said 32 states allow early voting without an excuse. While not committing to any specific election reforms, she promised a report to legislators soon.

Meanwhile, Mendel-Reyes had a simple piece of advice for lawmakers.

"I think our thinking on voting has to change," she stated. "I think we have to move from thinking about barriers to thinking about access."

The Secretary of State told those in attendance at the final election forum in Richmond that other states are finding that online registration lowers costs and provides more accurate voter data.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY